The footage of a player coming back for a final stint with their first franchise or the one that elevated their careers is powerful.
Not every player gets to go back to the market that made them a star for an encore, but a few players have been able to do exactly that. Here’s a look at five notable NHL returns:
Roberto Luongo returns to Florida
Yes, Roberto Luongo’s NHL career began with the New York Islanders, but his ascent into NHL stardom began with the Florida Panthers. Luongo’s first stint in Florida from 2000-06 would see him earn his first nominations for the Vezina Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award (then known as the Lester B. Pearson Award) and also set the club record for goaltender wins with 107 during the 2005-06 season.
After spending five seasons in Florida, Luongo was traded to Vancouver prior to the 2006-07 campaign. Luongo left a major impact in B.C., as he would be the first goaltender in franchise history to be named captain, be named to six all-star teams as well as backstopping Vancouver to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
At the tail end of the 2013-14 season, Luongo was traded back to the Panthers. Playing parts of six seasons, he would play his 1,000th game in a Florida jersey in 2017-18 and on Feb. 25, 2019, he would pass Ed Belfour for third-most wins by an NHL goaltender shortly before retiring.
Ryan Smyth returns to Edmonton
Who could forget the image of Ryan Smyth crying at the Edmonton International Airport in 2007? Deadline Day ’07 saw one of the city’s most popular players traded to the New York Islanders and Smyth himself may have been the most upset.
After stints with New York, Colorado and Los Angeles, the Kings would send Smyth back to Edmonton in 2011 in exchange for Gilbert Brule. Smyth would spend his final three seasons with the Oilers and would don the captain’s C once more in his final game in 2014.
Wendel Clark returns to Toronto
Clark not only got a second act, but a third act, too. After nine seasons as a star in hockey’s biggest market, Clark was moved to the Quebec Nordiques in a multi-player deal in June of 1994.
Clark would make his return to the Leafs in 1997-98 after a trade with the New York Islanders, getting two more years in the blue and white.
Clark’s third and final run with the Leafs came during the second half of the 1999-00 season, signing with the club as a veteran presence.
Luc Robitaille returns to Los Angeles
No matter how many times the career of “Lucky Luc” would take him away from the City of Angels, he never truly could leave. The greatest left winger in Los Angeles Kings’ history would spend eight years with the franchise, putting up multiple 100-point seasons before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1994.
After his tenure with the Penguins, Robitaille’s career would see him traded to the New York Rangers before making his way back to the Kings in 1997. The first return to Los Angeles would see him stay for four campaigns before signing as a free agent with Detroit in 2001.
After two years in Detroit, which included the 2002 Stanley Cup, Robitaille would return to the Kings as a free agent before the 2003-04 season. To this day, he currently serves as president of the organization that helped make him famous.
Trevor Linden returns to Vancouver
When you think about the Canucks, Linden’s name often comes to mind.
Linden’s first tenure in Vancouver would last 10 seasons, putting up six 30-goal seasons while being a major part of the Canucks’ run to the 1994 Stanley Cup final.
In 1998, Linden’s first chapter of his time in Vancouver would come to an end as he would be traded to the New York Islanders. The time away from British Columbia would also see Linden playing with Montreal and Washington.
Linden was dealt back to the Canucks in 2001, where he’d play six more seasons before eventually becoming the president of hockey operations in VanCity.
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